The World’s Greatest Job
Last week, the staff of All About Beer Magazine had the kind of day that our readers think we have every day: before noon, we moved straight from our morning caffeine fix to drinking lots and lots of different beers. Here in the office, on the clock, we got paid for drinking beer.
The night before, our publisher had hosted a beer and chocolate tasting for a local non-profit, and there were leftovers from nearly every pairing. Wanting to share the evening’s bounty with the office, the Pub detained the staff at the close of our editorial meeting and spread out the selections.
There was some urgency concerning one of the beers. Having been tapped for the event, the sixtel of Sexual Chocolate, the once-a-year release from Foothills Brewing Co. in Winston-Salem, needed to be drained while the beer was still at its best. We made the effort. In fact, had it been possible to wring a metal keg dry of its last drop, we would have done so.
We tried munching cocoa nibs of the sort used to brew the beer, an experience I found more educational than enjoyable. Nibs are chocolate-in-the-making, not the finished product. Just drink the beer.
The dark horse hit with our group, as was the case with the formal fundraiser, was Charles Wells Banana Beer. Bananas in beer sound bizarre until you think of the dominant banana notes in a traditional hefeweizen. Combine with malted milk balls and, voila, banana split!
The Pub is writing up the charity tasting on his blog (Bradfordonbeer.com), but here are some impressions:
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout has its fanatic followers. I find it well made though very sweet, but when paired it with the same Cadbury milk chocolate that goes into the brew, the common profile is remarkable, and as English as chocolate digestives.
Chocolate Indulgence from Brewery Ommegang couldn’t have been more different. Even though there’s a lot of chocolate aroma, this is a very dry beer, very adult. The fact that I can’t recall its chocolate partner suggests it was better on its own.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout was beer enough to marry with dark chocolate truffles from Whole Foods—delectable.
Duck Rabbit Märzen teamed with Lindt White Chocolate, but we also sipped it and sampled ad lib from the chocolate selection. Message: the automatic pairing of dark or very strong beer with sweets works, but we can go beyond that now-conventional pairing and experiment with other styles.
Lion Stout, a big, strong, and sweet tropical stout from Sri Lanka, cosied up with milk chocolate kisses—but I long to try it with a fiery curry.
The moment of truth came after we’d worked our way through all the chocolate duos. The Pub called us to ragged order and gave us a choice: either we could return to our desks and resume work, or he would order pizza and we could keep drinking. Hmmm, tricky.
Out came the Good Stuff: the bottles that no one would dare take home from the office for private consumption. First up was Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog in Scotland, reputed to be the world’s strongest beer at 32% ABV. Since it gets its strength through a sort of cold-distillation, a la eisbock, I doubt it will show up on U.S. shelves, unless it is taxed as a spirit. (This also leaves Boston Beer as the holder of the “Strongest Beer” title for Utopias, which depends on standard fermentation for its 27% AVB.)
Penguin is not a subtle beer—it’s hot and syrupy, a brew to check off your life list, but I liked sipping it, so many thanks to the BrewDog guys for sending a precious bottle.
And so went the afternoon, with one remarkable bottle after another popped, and small pours all around. The mail lady passed through, followed by the FedEx and UPS guys, all doing their jobs; the phone calls rolled over to voice mail.
If every day went like this, there’d be no magazine and no festivals. But it was great to head home—later, sobered—and realize this is the kind of days our fans imagine when they ask wistfully if we need any volunteers at All About Beer. And, yes, every once in a while, we really do spend the whole day enjoying beer. What a great job.